I’ve never really been a big fan of superhero movies, but one quote from the Spider-Man film (starring Tobey Maguire) has always stuck with me:
“With great power comes great responsibility”.
This quote can be true for a lot of things and especially applies to celebrities and people who in society are seen as being particularly influential. Whether they like it or not they have power and have a lot of responsibility in their hands. Your Kim Kardashians, Justin Biebers, Jennifer Lawrences and Robert Downey Jrs of the world.
Whether we like it or not also today social media personalities are now celebrities. The way we consume media and communicate with people has evolved. Traditional media audiences such as TV audiences are declining. We have gotten to a point where there is greater audience participation and creatives are held to greater account regarding the material they release for mass consumption.
What I am not saying that accepting responsibility means sacrificing artistic integrity and rights to freedom of speech; having to agree with everything people say to ‘keep the peace’. Challenging ideas and introducing new ones is important. What I want to get across is that it’s a rather ignorant and a childish frame of mind to have to ignore that every action has a consequence and that freedom of speech doesn’t equal freedom from criticism and a ‘free pass’ to break social prohibitions without necessary criticism.
When you are at the top of the ladder there is a bigger responsibility to those below you and those who don’t have the same privileges. It comes with the territory. Freeloading on society without contributing to society is not how progress is achieved; locking in those golden coins like Scrooge McDuck.
What I am trying to say it is important for those who wield privilege to listen to those who are marginalised and oppressed within our society to create a better world for everyone. Yet, (some) white people don’t seem to get it:
It is not acceptable for white people to use the “N” word and whites will never from now on be able to have a say with regards to whether it is acceptable to use it. I do not care how unfair whites think it is, how much they want to be able to say it because it’s ‘cool’ or how they use it as a term of endearment. The “N” word is a word which was used every time my ancestors were whipped, beaten, raped, spat on, shit on (yes it happened), murdered, insulted and humiliated in various ways. It is a word that when used by white people makes me reflect on a past which seen black people violently repressed for rebelling or even questioning a system which forced them to do and act as white society said.
All too often I see white people on the internet coming to assumptions regarding a general consensus in the black community regarding the word (which all to often relies on one black person’s opinion regarding the issue and using this as gospel). This matter is not a simple matter. Just because your ‘black friend’ is cool with you using that word it doesn’t mean you are right to use it. It is a very complex issue that needs to be discussed within the black community. Yes, you can have your opinion on the ‘N’ word too, but at this point the white opinion on this issue does not mean a thing.
Squat. Nada. Zero. The privilege was lost.
If white people really are interested in this debate they need to listen to black people first and not just engage in selective listening and just listen to black people whose opinions reflect theirs so that they can simply approve their own actions as there are differing opinions and feelings regarding the use of the “N” word, especially amongst generations, classes and communities of black people.
The mentality of “every door should be open to me whether you like it or not because we are all equal” and “I can say whatever I want because I have freedom of speech so back off man” are the epitome of white privilege. This is the belief that every debate should welcome the white opinion with open arms and that the white opinion should be the most prevalent (because “those ethnic minorities really don’t know what is good for them or that they’ve never had it so good?”). There is a great bitterness and anger amongst a lot of white people when I tell them that the discussion regarding whether it is ok to the use the “N-word” is simply a discussion they are unwelcome in. I am aware that there are groups of white people especially here in the UK that have and still experience discrimination (such as people from the Irish, Polish and Traveller communities and broke white people in declining ex-industrial communities screwed over by Thatcher), but some white people need to face it that some issues just aren’t about them.
I don’t think PewDiePie is a racist at this moment. He is not even on the level of people higher on the ‘bigot scale’ such as Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond. I have massive respect for him with regards to how he has been able to create success for himself. I however think he is uneducated, misguided and even ignorant regarding this issue. He screwed up hugely and needs to apologise.
It’s know it’s hard (especially as a man) to admit that you are wrong, but sometimes it is needed. It doesn’t make you less masculine. A simple apology and education would go a long way. Of course people don’t have to accept your apology, but effort to become a better person is always respected.
White people, you were born with great power but with your great power comes great responsibility.